No Hitter Spoiled in Ninth, but Tribe Still Wins; Indians 5, Astros 1

Did the Tribe Win Last Night? Yes! Trevor Bauer, Kyle Crockett and Scott Atchison took a combined no hitter through eight innings, but the no-no was broken up as Jed Lowrie socked a solo homerun off of Nick Hagadone with one out in the ninth. Bauer worked six scoreless and hitless innings and struck out a career high 11 batters, but threw 111 pitches before being pulled in the top of the seventh. Bauer struggled with control for the first two innings and fired 54 of those 111 bullets early, removing any chance of a complete game in his first start of the season.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Indians batters kept tacking on runs as their relatively quiet bats for the first two games of the season awoke against the Astros rookie pitcher Asher Wojciechowski, who made his first Major League start.

It was all Indians from the first batter on as Michael Bourn led off the game with a double and then came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jason Kipnis. The Tribe then added a single run in the second on an RBI single by Roberto Perez that was aided by an unbelievable slide into home by Yan Gomes. The Tribe then started playing longball when Perez and Jose Ramirez added solo homeruns in the fourth and fifth innings that pushed the Indians lead to 4-0. The homers were the first of the young season for both players. Cleveland scored its fifth run on a fielder’s choice duffer to first by Carlos Santana that Ramirez alertly scored on.

WP: Bauer (1-0) LP: Wojciechowski (0-1)

Key Inning: Even though they scored a run in the first, the Tribe had still stranded a runner at third base in the game’s first frame. The second inning seemed doomed for the same fate as Gomes had doubled to start the inning, but was still standing at second after David Murphy and Lonnie Chisenhall had recorded outs. When Perez singled into right with two down, Gomes was waved around to test the arm of right fielder George Springer. Springer fired a perfect strike to the catcher Hank Conger, but Gomes did his best Kyrie Irving impression as he juked Conger by faking a move to the outside and then sliding safely to the inside part of the plate. The heads-up slide by Gomes only gave the Indians a 2-0 advantage, but it more importantly didn’t allow the Astros to gain any momentum as Bauer searched for his command early.

Player of the Game: Perez, Kipnis and Ramirez would all normally be considered for their outstanding performances on Thursday, but when a pitcher works six scoreless and hitless innings, it is a bit of a no-brainer.

Bauer was “effectively wild” as he struggled with his control early but certainly had his strikeout pitch working. Bauer followed the outstanding performances by Corey Kluber on Monday and Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday by not allowing a hit all afternoon in his six innings of work.

Standings: The Indians move to 2-1 on the season and are 1.0 game behind the Kansas City Royals, who swept their first series against the White Sox.

—All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley missed his second straight game with a lower back injury. He is listed as day-to-day and will be checked by doctors on Friday morning when the club gets back to Cleveland. Murphy got the start in left in Brantley’s absence.

—Wojciechowski’s first start of the 2015 season also marked his Major League debut. The 26-year old Wojciechowski made the Astros seemingly out of nowhere this spring and was a first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010. “Wojo” was acquired by Houston from Toronto in a 2012 trade involving 10 players including pitcher J.A. Happ.

Analysis: It took the Astros a full time through the batting order before they were able to even put a ball in play. Bauer was all or nothing early as he threw 54 pitches in the first two innings aided by four walks and five strikeouts. Jose Altuve was the first Astro to put the ball in play in a critical situation with two outs and runners on first and second. Altuve popped weakly to Kipnis at second to end the Houston threat.

Bauer was visibly frustrated with his early control struggles, as the young right hander has had struggles with his command in the past. After walking just one batter all of Spring Training, Bauer was wild from the outset—missing high with his fastball consistently for the first two innings. Starting with the third inning, however, Bauer settled in and found much better control. In 6.0 innings of work on Thursday, Bauer struggled with walking 5 batters, but also ended up striking out a career-high 11. Through three games, the Indians pitchers have struck out an outrageous 36 batters and have a combined ERA of 1.00.

Up Next: The Indians will look for their third straight victory as they head back to Cleveland for their Home Opener against the reigning four-time Central Division Champion Detroit Tigers on Friday afternoon. Zach McAllister (4-7, 5.23 in 2014) will have some tough acts to follow as he gets the start for Cleveland. The Tigers will counter with Alfredo Simon (15-10, 3.44 in 2014). Simon was acquired by Detroit this offseason via trade from Cincinnati after making his first All-Star team last season with the Reds.

Opening Day festivities at the newly-renovated Progressive Field will begin when the gates open at 2:00pm—over two hours prior to the 4:10 scheduled first pitch. The Home Opener will be televised on Fox Sports/SportsTime Ohio and will be broadcast on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.

Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

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